FDA Urged To Crack Down On Questionable Opioid Withdrawal Supplements

By Britni de la Cretaz 12/12/17

A major advocacy group is asking the FDA to tighten regulations on products that make unsubstantiated claims regarding opioid withdrawal treatment.

woman holding a handful of orange supplement pills

The supplement industry is booming, with something for everyone. Whether you want to bulk up on muscle or get clearer skin, there’s usually a supplement that claims it can provide it. So it’s no surprise that, with the opioid crisis unfolding in the United States, supplements would come along with claims of addressing some of the ailments or complications associated with opioid addiction. But do they really work? And, more importantly, are they safe to use?

A recent New York Times feature examined the supplement industry aimed at targeting people struggling with addiction. One such supplement, Opiate Detox PRO, sold by NutraCore Health Products, claims to “[rebuild] the nutrition lost in the body during withdrawal symptoms.” According to their website, they claim to use only “the most bioavailable ingredients.” The product is described as a mix of B-vitamins “used to support nervous system health and replenish stores in the body,” Branch Chain Aminos to “flush the system of toxins,” and Bioperine “to ensure maximum absorption in the gut.”

Another product, Mitadone Anti-Opiate Aid Plus, makes similar claims on its website. “People with such issues [of using painkillers] are normally not at their peak health. The combination of bad habits and opiate use may not allow one's body to properly metabolize specific vitamins to their fullest extent,” the product description reads. “Our goal in formulating Mitadone is to offer the best product on the market for opiate support, while having the highest quality ingredients and being more cost effective.”

Last week, the Center for Science in the Public Interest released a statement asking the Food and Drug Administration to tighten regulations on products like Opiate Detox PRO and Mitadone Anti-Opiate Aid Plus. Citing the recent public health advisory regarding kratom, another supplement that many claim helps with opioid withdrawal, the statement urges the FDA and Federal Trade Commission to address eight other products that make unsubstantiated health claims regarding treatment of opioid addiction or withdrawal. “We… wrote to the manufacturers of each of these products to request evidence of their product’s efficacy for this purpose,” the statement reads. “The responses we received were often flip, cursory, riddled with pseudo-scientific jargon, or frighteningly ill-informed.”

Not only that, none of the companies have any scientific research showing that their products work, nor do they plan on funding any.

Chris Beekman, the owner of NutraCore Health Products, told the New York Times, “If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.” Team Mitadone sent a response to the CSPI that said “the proof is in the pudding”—with the pudding seemingly referring to customer reviews. 

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.